This is the second in a series of columns covering some instructive hands that were played at the World Poker Open in Tunica, Mississippi. Since these hands involve actual players, I have changed their names in the column to protect their identities. The hands are laid out in a question-and-answer format so that you can decide for yourself what you would do before seeing what actually happened.
Bill, a friend of mine, was in the small blind in a $15-$30 game with the Jdiamonds 5clubs. This game had a $10 small blind. The game was loose and passive, and pots were being won with all kinds of weak hands. Four players limped in, including the cutoff.
Question No. 1: What is your action?
Answer: You should complete the bet by tossing in another $5. Although you have no hand, with $85 in the pot, you are getting 17-to-1 pot odds to take a flop. At these odds, it is worth seeing three cards in hope of catching a miracle flop like two Bola88 pair, trips, or something better. If the small blind had been $5 instead of $10, there would have been only $80 in the pot and it would have cost you another $10, so your pot odds would have been only 8-to-1 and you should fold. As an aside, this is one of the problems with having the small blind more than half a small bet. It is almost like playing the game with two big blinds. The player in the small blind is usually getting great pot odds to call, and should call with anything.
Bill called, and the big blind raised. The big blind was Bob, who is a tight and self-absorbed player. Bob plays his own cards and is almost oblivious at times to what other players are doing. All four limpers called.
Question No. 2: What should you do?
Answer No. 2: There are 11 small bets in the pot and it costs you another small bet to call, so your odds have dropped to 11-to-1 from 17-to-1. Now, you should fold. This is one of those rare preflop cases in which you call and then fold to a raise.
Bill called. The flop was Jclubs Jspades 4spades, giving Bill trip jacks. There are 12 small bets in the pot.
Question No. 3: Should you bet or check?
Answer: You should bet. Bob could easily have a big pair and will raise, thereby forcing the other four players to call two bets cold. You must make those flush draws pay, and/or at least find out if the case jack is out there. If you check, Bob will probably bet and the others will just call, giving you no information. It might even get checked around, which is very bad news. This is not the time to hand out free cards to five opponents, since there is a two-flush on the table.
Bill checked, Bob checked, and it got checked around. This was an unpleasant surprise for Bill, who was sure that Bob would bet and he could then check-raise. The turn was the 2diamonds. There are six big bets in the pot.
Question No. 4: What should you do?
Answer: Don’t compound your flop mistake by checking again. You must bet. If you continue to check, you will be totally in the dark as to what is happening. You are also making it very easy on the flush draws by checking.
Bill bet, and Bob now raised. It was folded to Glen in the cutoff, who called. Glen had recently moved up from low-limit poker to middle-limit poker. Glen is a loose, passive player who will play any draw just to see if he can get there. There are 11 big bets in the pot.
Question No. 5: What now?
Answer: It is very unlikely that Bob has the case jack. He, being a tight player, would not have raised preflop from the big blind against a large field with something like A-J or K-J. He is more likely to have been slow-playing a big pocket pair on the flop. With a jack in his hand, Glen would have bet the flop. Glen is probably on a flush draw. Therefore, you should three-bet, since your hand figures to be the best.
Bill three-bet, Bob capped the betting, and Glen called. There are 17 big bets in the pot.
Question No. 6: Should you call or fold?
Answer: Of course, you should call. Even if your assessment was wrong and Bob does indeed have the case jack, you could catch any one of the three remaining fives, which would give you the nuts. Three outs is a 15-to-1 shot, and with 17-to-1 pot odds, you still have a call.
Bill called. There are 18 big bets in the pot. The river was the 9spades.
Question No. 7: Should you bet or check?
Answer: This is a horrible card. It looks like Glen has made his spade flush. You should check with the intention of calling. Betting with the idea of folding when raised is a bad idea. The pot is much too big and you want to minimize your cost at this point.
Bill checked, Bob checked, and Glen checked. Glen won with the 7spades 3spades. Bob had the Kspades Kclubs.
It is worth noting the play of both Bob and Glen on this hand. Bob’s check on the flop was wrong. Bob has a good but vulnerable holding once the flop comes. The two-flush with a large field present makes betting out important. By checking, Bob is losing a lot of equity, since his hand figures to be the best despite the open pair on the board. Note also that Bob has a backdoor-flush draw himself, so if the flush card shows up on the turn, Bob has redraws.
What about Glen? Preflop, I think limping in with just any two suited cards is bad poker, despite being in late position behind three other limpers. On the turn, there were nine big bets in the pot and Glen called two bets cold to pursue his flush draw. At best, Glen had nine flush outs from 46 unseen cards. But given the strong betting on the turn, someone could easily have trips with the big open pair on the board, so the 2spades may not be an out. And one of his other outs could be killed like the 5spades was in this case. With one or two of his nine flush outs gone, he is not getting the right pot odds to call on the turn. Now, coupling all of this with the fact that he may be drawing dead to an already made full house and he is still vulnerable to further raising makes his play on the turn dubious.
Finally, his play on the river was bad. Obviously, he was worried about losing to a bigger flush or being trapped by someone trying to sandbag with a full house. But this was very unlikely. By betting with a large pot out there, he almost certainly would get called by both Bill and Bob. Glen’s check cost him $60, or about two hours of pay for a pro in a $15-$30 game. Glen plays like a typical low-limit player. He comes in with suited junk preflop, makes the hand he was hoping to make, and then fails to get full value from it by not betting when he gets there.